Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is a workhouse in chemical analysis because IR spectra are characteristic for chemical compounds and their intensities are proportional to the concentration.
These features allow us to answer questions such as: What is it made of? Is it pure? Beyond that, the IR spectra can give information about structure and function of biopolymers. Information on the spatial variation of the composition within a small sample can be obtained with the combination of a spectrometers and a microscope in a confocal setup. The result is a hyperspectral data cube where each X,Y element is associated with a spectrum, from which information about the chemical composition can be extracted. An image is then obtained by assigning each pixel a colour determined by the result of the spectral analysis. Because IR spectra contain large amounts of parallel information, different images can be plotted for individual components like protein, starch, or lipids. Unlike most conventional microscopy techniques, this process does not require any staining.
The Institute of Food Research has a dedicated Vibrational Spectroscopy Lab with a range of equipment that users may book for their own experiments.